Our accommodation for three weeks in Tauranga is a Beach Bach. A Bach is the New Zealand expression for any dwelling with a holiday / leisure theme to it. It can be anything from an old shack or caravan by the beach to a more palatial style residence; usually it refers to a holiday type home, but in this instance it is the main residence. It’s the home of Karen and Owen Cooney with whom we are house swapping.
Karen shows us around on Christmas Eve. She is quite an interior designer and everything is spacious and white with a few touches of colour; everything is carefully chosen and crafted. The Bach is right on the beach or estuary and windows open out on the north and the west to give wonderful waterfront views. Karen has made a meticulous list of all we need to know and has even included details of what to do in case of a Tsunami. ‘Don’t worry,’ she says, ‘it’s not likely to happen’
We make a quick dash to the super market. Just to buy a few bits and pieces; nothing much. We spend over 250 dollars. There are quite a few last minute shoppers but it’s not the hustle and bustle it would be in the UK. There’s only one person in front of us at the checkout and every till has its own packer. We just unload the goods on to the conveyor and the packer packs them neatly into bags and loads up the trolley. In New Zealand parlance it’s called a ‘trundler’ and it after unloading it at your car you take back to the ‘trundler park’.
We’ve come from the frenetic build up to Christmas in London in the middle of a grey and wet December, where daylight fades before 4pm to – in just a few days – a hot and sunny North Island in New Zealand where everything is in full bloom. My favourites are the lilac coloured Jacaranda trees which line many of the roads in the residential areas and the Pohutukawa along the coast – its red blossoms in December have earned it the nickname of the North Island Christmas tree. The best bit of course is that the sun doesn’t set till after 9. What a tonic for a lover of long summer days…
In the supermarket today – 23rd December – I expect to see scores of harassed shoppers doing their big Christmas shop, but it’s much thinner on the ground than I expected and even people with bulging trolleys look more relaxed. Possibly it’s because I’m more relaxed and so I don’t notice it, but with everyone in shorts and t-shirts and probably thinking about their summer holiday which often follows closely after the big day, maybe not. A New Zealand friend who spent last year in the UK tells me she liked the winter Christmas because it was everyone’s focus rather than a rushed occasion before the big holiday exodus.